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Breeding Targets for Winter Milk Herds


Breeding goals for winter milk herds should be centred on improving milk solids output while improving fertility traits such as calving interval & 6wk calving rate; feed efficiency, health and longevity are also important goals. EBI balances these objectives. James Dunne Dairy Specialist explains

The Economic Breeding Index (EBI) balances these objectives.

The key breeding plan steps are:

  • Identify a start and end date for the coming breeding season. For the majority of winter milk herds (< 50% liquid contract) starting to calve in October will suffice to meet contract targets. Also work out the number of cows required to calve in the autumn to efficiently supply contracts.
  • Using your herd records, identify the lower performing cows in the herd. Either mark them for culling or breed them to high DBI beef bulls. Do not breed your replacements from the following cows - low milk solids, poor temperament, poor fertility, high SCC, lame etc.
  • Select a panel of high EBI (>€280) bulls from the Active bull list (>7 bulls for a herd of up to 100 cows). Your bull team should be balanced for both the milk (>€100) and fertility (>€100) sub-index.
  • Target a high combined kg of milk solids (>30kg) figure in the team of bulls. Aim to hold the milk volume proof at 80-180kg with high fat (>0.20) and protein (>0.15) potential.
  • The bull team should vary around these average figures to complement the variation in the cow herd.
  • Avoid extremes with regard type / conformation in order to breed a medium sized, functional cow that will last in the herd. Remember a cow with a maintenance sub-index of €8 shall be 600kg mature liveweight
  • Select 2-3 bulls within your bull team with low calving ease proofs for use on your replacement heifers.
  • Target to breed all replacement heifers in the first 10 days of the breeding season. A simple synchronisation programme will help achieve this.
  • Use the ‘Sire Advice’ tool on Herdplus to develop your team of bulls, create a mating plan and avoid any inbreeding.

Johnstown Castle Winter Milk Herd

Bull selection has taken place for the Johnstown Castle Research Herd. Aidan Lawless states “We’re looking for a team of bulls that are balanced for milk and fertility, that give over 30kgs milk solids through high percentages, are positive for health and will maintain cow size around 600kg liveweight ”.

Johnstown Castle sire advice summary:

See link to last year’s article on: Calculating the number of cows required to calve in the autumn.

The Teagasc Dairy Specialists issue an article on a topic of interest to dairy farmers every Monday here on Teagasc Daily Find more on Teagasc Dairy here.

For any further information or assistance contact your local Teagasc Office here: Advisory Regions.